Transcript: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s Q&A w/ CDCR administrators George Giurbino & Suzan Hubbard on CDCR’s proposed new policies on solitary confinement – Feb. 11, 2014

Partial transcript of Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s Q&A with CDCR Chief Deputy Administrators George Giurbino and Suzan Hubbard on CDCR’s proposed new policies on solitary confinement and prison gang or “security threat group” management. The joint informational hearing was held on Feb. 11, 2014:

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
…I was thinking if the members of the Assembly, we’d all be gang members. I don’t know how you avoid not associating. [Laughter] A lot of them try not to associate…

…So under the draft regulations – this concerns the validation – aren’t you using the exact same kinds of evidence or information to validate an inmate as you did under the old rules? For instance, books, tattoos, confidential informants?

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Some of that information correct that was incorporated. We revised some of that information on sources to make it more specific based upon recommendations from external stakeholder groups. But probably the thing that becomes very important as you say that, sir, is that we separate the validation process from the SHU process – something that didn’t exist previously. So individual validated as a SHU doesn’t necessarily go to a security housing unit.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
All right. We’ll develop that with you.

And then I’m also concerned about the vagueness of some of these source items, particularly being in possession of someone else’s legal documents to validate an inmate. Should an inmate be punished for helping another inmate to file a legal brief or an appeal? Hypothetically?

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Absolutely not, and that’s why the policy itself doesn’t provide, as it does in many states, only one source item as required to validate an individual. The state of California requires three separate source items and we’ve incorporated a weighted point structure in addition to that and established there must be a direct link with an active that’s validated.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
All right. Again, to this eye, there’s a vagueness. But we can get that more precise.

And then the draft regulations are supposed to be a move towards punishing behavior, as you’ve mentioned, rather than mere gang or STG validation. But there’s a distinction between how associates and members are placed in the SHU, and why shouldn’t everyone with the same behavior-based reason to be placed in the SHU rather than just – ?

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Well, not completely, sir. I understand your question but individuals that are validated as members, if you’ve done research or kind of done information relative to these individuals, there is a blood-in blood-out philosophy that’s associated with it, where individuals that are sworn into a gang as a member, there’s only one way to come back out of that gang. Individuals that are associates to that gang don’t have that same tie, that same level.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
Yeah. I’ve just – I understand the complexity here and I’m sorry I wasn’t clear but it just seems there’s a double standard, and again, we can explore that too.

In terms of the step-down program, is there any real limitation to how long someone can remain in the SHU during the step-down program? Is there anything codified?

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
No, there’s not because we feel that the individual inmate is going to be making decisions about whether they move forward through the step-down program.

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
But important to note that the step-down program is set up in four different portions. Each one of those portions, although it has 12 months within that step, the individual based upon their behavior and not receiving a rules violations report with a gang nexus can be accelerated in both steps one and steps two, reducing their time within the security housing unit to three years. In addition to that, if they complete that first portion of the step-down program at Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, that individual then becomes eligible to move forward to either Tehachapi or Corcoran, which is a different environment…

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
I appreciate that. The question was directed to Ms. Hubbard.

Number two, the self-directed journaling is required in the step-down program. What if an inmate decides not to participate in the journaling? Would that be a reason to prevent the inmate from progressing to the next step in the step-down program?

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Eventually, it would be, yes.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
And then in the third and fourth steps of the step-down program, there is some programming allowed for the inmates. How is the programming administered – alone in their SHU cells or in a limited group setting?

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
In steps three and four, we move towards in more of a limited group setting, and we’re having very good successes with that. Most of our step three and four inmates are at Tehachapi and they are taking part in small group settings.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
And not in cages? Not like there in therapy?

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Therapeutic modules, currently, yes. [Jeers]

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
That would be one portion of it, sir. But they’re also going to come outside –

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
All right, sir. Sir, please. You’re over-answering a little bit, given the time limits. Believe me, we’ll get to all this.

On the process, even though the draft regulations provide additional hearings in order to validate an inmate, is there any independent review of the decisions made at these hearings? In other words, someone outside the CDCR? Yes or no?

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
No.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
What avenues do STG members have to challenge the validation and SHU placement?

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
The inmates have an appeal process towards their validation in which they can move forward for three different levels of review within our department. And of course, if not pleased with the director’s level decision at the third level, they can file a writ to contest the validation.

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
And probably just as important, sir, is that they now have a rules violation report as part of their validation process that provides a more elevated level of appeal as well in addition to their classification by the classification committee.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
Let me ask you this, George, you do all the case reviews for the current inmates and I think your co-presenter is doing them with you. Do you have any discretion in that process?

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Discretion, yes, but the policies are pretty much are guiding principles. We take a look at it. But both Ms. Hubbard and myself have been doing those reviews. Yes, sir.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
And then what kind of certainty can we have that the people who come in after you will make the appropriate decisions on validation?

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
I think what becomes important is what we’re doing is case-by-case reviews for those individuals that were previously validated. That group was 3,200. Prospectively moving forward, that case-by-case review will no longer become necessary. The review itself will incorporate three additional levels of review – the rules violation report, security threat group classification, and an institution classification committee that will provide three levels of review plus appeals process that goes along with that.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
All right. Thank you very much. Just to end up my questioning just briefly. Conditions in the SHU and public safety. The regulations concerning the conditions. You’re not specify[ing] how many non-contact visits an inmate can get in each of the step-down program. So who decides that?

And then on public safety, under the old policy, there were concerns that people who were in the SHU for many years who are then paroled directly into the general public. Are we doing anything about that so they’re allowed some period of time with other inmates before just direct release to the public?

Either of you…

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
If I’m understanding, the first comment was that in the new regulations, you don’t see that there’s a –

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
Yeah, you’re not specifying the –

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Number of visits. And that may be an oversight, but the intent – and this is that time period while we’re in this public comment period to tighten up those regulations – is that they would have – they would be guided by the same regulations as other inmates that are in segregation so that that’s generally visits on the weekend.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
I think the concern here is retaliation, that it’s not used in a retaliatory manner.

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
I’m not understanding that.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
Well, if you’re denied visits or the number of visit, that if you want to do something punitive or retaliatory to the inmate, you can restrict those. And we’re wondering in this process how does one prevent that and identify. But that’s for later.

Suzan Hubbard, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
All right. We’ll work on that.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
And just the public safety in general, the direct expulsion of the SHU inmate right into the general public. Are we looking at ways to buffer that?

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Absolutely. I think it’s important to understand within the step-down program that we’ve built elements into it which are also being expanded to include academic tape-testing, vocational…testing. In addition to that, it provides academic programming education with educational facilitators within each of the SHU facilities. Also the inmates can continue to be provided with college class programs within the security housing units as well. And we’re looking towards introducing and working with a group in providing alternatives to violence program, which is an interactive program with individuals of diverse backgrounds to become more accustomed to each other in going either back out to the general population –

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
Just a practical question. What if your time is up and you’ve only done step one? Then you don’t get all of the “benefits” et cetera. I mean, you’re still –

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Correct. That’s why it’s important for that journaling program that we discussed. That journaling program helps the individual to learn about their behavior in advance of being able to parole.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
Yeah, but I don’t really see it as a solution to what I’m talking about…

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